Katrina Wuerth, 83, Was Drama Teacher and Poet

Katrina Van Tassel Wuerth, age 83, of Guilford, Conn., died Friday at Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn., from complications related to Parkinson's disease. She had her family at her side.

Katrina was born in Scarsdale, N.Y., on May 29, 1921, daughter of Chester Burrows Van Tassel and Alma Ruth Bogue Van Tassel, late of Edgartown. She was graduated from Scarsdale High School, then received a B.A. from Bennington College. After writing for Redbook and Mademoiselle magazines in New York, she married Tom Taylor Wuerth in 1947 in Scarsdale. They moved into and restored an old cape in Ashland and in 1955 they moved to Guilford, where they restored the 1749 Caleb Stone house, where she lived for half a century.

She taught creative dramatics in the Guilford public schools for many years, and later in all of the New Haven elementary schools. During this time she joined Pickle Players, a creative drama group for children, which she co-led for 20 years, giving thousands of children their first memorable theatrical experiences. She received an M.A. from Wesleyan University in 1979 and resumed her writing career, under her maiden name, after her children were grown. She was a founder and editor of the Embers Poetry Journal, from 1982 to 1995, and a founder of Guilford Poets Guild. A prolific poet, she wrote and published three books of poetry, and received awards for her books Trundle Wheel in 1981 and This Day Must Flow Over Water in 2001. In 2003, she also published Two Together. Her poetry has been included in many publications, including Embers, Connecticut Review, Heartbeat of New England, South Road and Yankee Magazine. She collaborated often with the Martha's Vineyard photographer, her niece, Alison Shaw of Oak Bluffs. Katrina was a familiar figure at many Connecticut poetry readings, and in addition had the honor of being named Poet Laureate at the Dudley Farm Museum in Guilford.

Katrina had many other passions. A classically taught pianist, she played Chopin and Cole Porter with equal enthusiasm. She loved singing and was a member of the Capella Cantorum chorus for many years. She was an avid gardener whose perennial garden was admired by all. Katrina was a loyal and loving mother and wife. Her family was the most important part of her life. She was also a friend and mentor to countless young people, many of whom lived at her Guilford home for periods of time. She was an early advocate of women's rights back in the 1940s, and was active locally in improving opportunities for underprivileged children.

She adored Martha's Vineyard, where she had fond memories of summers spent with her friends since the 1930s. It was here that she met her late husband, Tom Wuerth, oldest son of Gustav and Elsie Wuerth, late of Edgartown. Both Katrina and Tom's parents were longtime Island visitors before retiring to Edgartown in the 1950s. Katrina and Tom, their children and grandchildren all loved their annual vacations at Green Hollow and at "Pinkletink" cottage on Dunham Way in Edgartown. She also loved her weathered antique farmhouse in Brookfield, Vt., where she would relax by clearing land, cross-country skiing and cooking for large groups of family and friends. Katrina battled Parkinson's disease for several years. Her family, and her poetry, kept her going strong until the last few weeks.

She is survived by her children, Christopher Wuerth and his wife, Diane, of Hamden, Conn., Jonathan Wuerth and his wife, Jana, of Guilford, Conn., Peter Wuerth of Guilford, Conn., and Megan Wuerth of Big Pine Key, Fla., and grandchildren Joshua, Oriana, Jessie, Schuyler, Dillon, Alexandra and Katie. She also leaves her older sister, Gretchen Van Tassel Shaw, of Brunswick, Maine, and her younger brother, Peter Van Tassel, of Edgartown. Her husband, Tom T. Wuerth, predeceased her in 1994.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the First Congregational Church of Guilford, Conn., on the Guilford green, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Katrina Van Tassel Poetry Fund, Guilford Poets Guild, 44 Summer street, Guilford, CT 06437.